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Amazon Runs from Just Walk Out, Costco Turns on the Bots
Fresh funds for synthetic proteins, tour Walmart's warehouse of the future
We’re sorry that this week’s robotic roundup is coming out a few hours later than usual, but we promise it’s worth the wait. As always, there are some exciting updates from the world of restaurant, grocery, and hospitality automation.
Amazon Fresh Turns to Self Checkout
It’s been a tough few months for Amazon’s grocery efforts, as the company closes stores, lays off workers, and opens up more options to non-Prime members, in an effort to stay competitive. Now it’s turning away from one of its most iconic innovations: “Just Walk Out” checkout technology. The redesign, in favor of traditional self checkout, was first reported in Bloomberg Businessweek and is being piloted in stores near Chicago and Southern California, and also includes brighter store decor and Krispy Kreme counters offering coffee and donuts. The success of these changes could lead to the not-so futuristic checkout being implemented across the 40+ Amazon Fresh stores nationwide.
Costco Turns to Robotic Sampling Stations
Automated self-serve kiosks have started to appear at iconic warehouse retailer Costco. Though Costco hasn't made an official statement, they’ve been noted across the country. Contrary to popular belief, the employees handing out free samples aren't actually Costco staff but are instead hired by Club Demonstration Services (CDS). With these demonstrators earning around $14-15 an hour, it's unsurprising that few are flocking to these roles, given the tight employment market. Additionally, many of these roles were occupied by senior citizens, a group that was adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. So while it’s unsurprising Costco has turned to automation — especially for pre-packaged goods that come out of low-tech, gravity-fed stations that allow customers to grab a sample from a chute — will shoppers be as likely to engage with a sample if there’s no human to convince them to give it a try?
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Meatable’s $35M Raise Heats Up Cultivate Protein Market
The cultivated meat industry, which involves the production of meat from animal cells without harming the animal, has seen a significant surge in recent times. Despite a slowdown in venture capital investments in the sector, there have been some key developments:
U.S. Market Developments:
The US Food and Drug Administration gave the green light to Upside Foods and Good Meat in June to retail their cultivated chicken products countrywide, both of which are now available in restaurants.
The company Omeat has also unveiled its technology for producing beef.
European Market Developments:
Aleph Farms, an Israel-based company, is pursuing regulatory approval in the United Kingdom and Switzerland to sell its cultivated beef steaks.
U.K.-based Uncommon, previously known as Higher Steaks, raised $30 million in Series A funding.
Meatable's Funding and Growth:
Meatable, from The Netherlands, announced its new financing of $35 million, taking its total funding to $95 million.
The company began with pork products and has showcased its technology using precision fermentation.
Since its establishment five years ago, Meatable has grown its team to 100, started production in Singapore, and received approval for external tastings of its products.
They have managed to reduce production time and increase the capacity of their bioreactors, which aids in reducing production costs.
The newly acquired funds will be utilized to upscale their processes and accelerate the commercialization of their products, including sausages and pork dumplings, in Singapore by 2024.
Meatable also aims to establish its footprint in the US within the next two years.
Agronomics led the new investment and was joined by new investor Invest-NL, which contributed $17 million, according to the company. Existing investors coming back include BlueYard, Bridford, MilkyWay, DSM Venturing and Wise chairman and founder Taavet Hinrikus.